Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2013, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (7): 691-698.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1258.2013.00072

• Review • Previous Articles    

Leaf venation functional traits and their ecological significance

LI Le1,ZENG Hui1,2,GUO Da-Li3,*()   

  1. 1Key Laboratory for Urban Habitat Environmental Science and Technology, Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School, Shenzhen, Guangdong 518055, China
    2Department of Ecology, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    3Qianyanzhou Ecological Station, Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2013-03-13 Accepted:2013-05-20 Online:2013-07-01 Published:2013-07-05
  • Contact: GUO Da-Li


Leaf venation is the distribution and arrangement pattern of a leaf vein system. Earlier studies of leaf venation mainly focused on its taxonomic significance. In recent years, studies of leaf venation functional traits and their significance in plant water relations have been popular topics of plant ecological research. In this paper, we introduced an index system of leaf venation functional traits (including vein density, vein diameter, distance between veins and loopiness of veins). We also reviewed three aspects of leaf venation functional trait studies: relations between leaf venation functional traits and leaf vein system functions (i.e., water-nutrient-photosynthetic product transport, mechanical support and herbivore defense), positive and negative correlations between leaf venation functional traits and other leaf functional traits (e.g., leaf mass per area, leaf lifespan, leaf photosynthetic rate, leaf size and stomatal density), as well as relations between leaf venation functional traits and environmental factors (e.g., precipitation, temperature and light). In addition, leaf venation functional traits can be employed in studies of palaeoclimate reconstructions, watershed and urban transportation planning, as well as global change studies. Since leaf venation functional traits are products of both environmental factors and genetic factors, future leaf venation functional trait studies at molecular-leaf-plant-ecosystem scales are needed, and analyses of plant water relations between leaf venation functional traits and traits of other plant tissues or organs (i.e., stomata, wood and root) also need to be improved. All of these studies show promise in providing new insights into predicting responses of plants and ecosystems to global changes.

Key words: biological networks, leaf functional traits, leaf vein system, plant water use, vein density